Feist's music is the strong, silent type on Pleasure.Interscope Records, 2017
7.8 / 10
For her fourth full-length album, Pleasure, Leslie Feist seemingly gets her pleasure by making us uncomfortable. For much of its early half, the album’s instrumental is skeletal. Maybe just a little bit of guitar, no percussion, and the hum of the room. Feist’s singing has always been a quiet tool of devastation. As the sparse instrumentation instills a sense of isolation and loneliness, her singing doesn’t just bruise; rather, it punctures the soul.
Eventually, Feist does let loose more. And the music becomes more vibrant, as if waking up from a coma. However, nothing ever reaches the pop highs of The Reminder. The Feist behind “1234” doesn’t show up here. By comparison, Pleasure‘s songs are more mature, and take some risks you wouldn’t expect. On “A Man Is Not His Song”, it finishes out with an exhilarating surprise. Feist includes a piece of Mastodon‘s song, “High Road”. The link between the band and Feist isn’t hard to connect. If you remember, they previously worked on Feistodon, a single where they covered each other’s songs. Here, she uses the snippet as “a sonic representation of the feminine/masculine binary”. It does the job.
Another creative change-up comes on “Century”. Joe Cocker shows up in the song’s finale to play Leonard Cohen as he delivers some stark poetry. “When you believe you’ll never see the sunrise again/ When a single second feels like a century.” Up until Cocker’s appearance, “Century” recalls the most thrilling songs of Feist’s past. Obviously, “Century” arrives on the album’s second half instead of its quieter first part. However, Pleasure‘s early songs choose raw emotion over thrills. On “Get Not High, Get Not Low”, the song’s emptiness allows greater clarity to scattered noises in the studio. In the song’s chorus, it suddenly energizes. It represents a change in mood much like the ones described in the song.
The album’s shift in tone arrives on “Any Party”. Building from an arrangement of guitar and drums(!), the shift feels like one that’s earned rather than offered to us so easily. Feist sings, “You know I’d leave any party for you/ No party’s so sweet as our party of two.” The song is seemingly about how relationships often take precedence over our closest friendships. Much of Pleasure feels like a party of two between Feist and its listener. And it’s a party that we won’t be skipping out of early.